Figures from the latest Capital police map reveal a shocking rise in rapes despite overall offences falling and clear-up rates remaining unchanged
THE number of rapes reported in Edinburgh has soared by more than 40 per cent in the last year despite police chiefs revealing an overall drop in crime in their annual report.
A total of 130 rapes were reported to police between April last year and March, compared with 92 for the previous year, new figures have revealed.
Rape Crisis Scotland said that “we can never know for certain” whether the increase was due to victims being more willing to come forward or a rising tide of sex attacks.
Police chiefs said that new legislation creating a broader definition of rape and consent based on free agreement was another factor behind the jump. But officers said that they were in “no way complacent” about the trend, and were working with the licensed trade to combat the link between sex attacks and alcohol.
The figures form part of a “crime map” which shows the city’s hotspots for offences such as assaults, housebreakings and vandalism.
Overall crime in Edinburgh fell by five per cent against the previous year, with only Southside/Newington, Portobello/Craigmillar, and Oxgangs going in the other direction.
The biggest drop in crimes was in Liberton/Gilmerton, where recorded offences decreased by 16 per cent, and Pentland Hills, which saw a 20 per cent reduction.
The highest number of rapes was reported in Sighthill/ Gorgie, with 16, while the city centre recorded the most sexual assaults at 56.
The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act, which took effect in December 2010, set out circumstances where there can be no free agreement, including a victim being incapable through alcohol.
A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis Scotland said: “We can never know for certain whether a rise like the one reflected in these figures is due to an increased willingness to report or if there have been a larger number of rapes.
“Moreover, the legal changes brought about by the new Act further complicate the picture, as some crimes which would previously have been investigated as sexual assaults now constitute rape. We have to hope that the rise is due to an increased confidence in contacting the police.”
Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, Edinburgh’s divisional commander, said: “When we abstract the cases which would not previously have been recorded as rape then the levels are not significantly up from previous years. But having said that, we are in no way complacent and are very much focused on understanding the trend.
“We know the role that alcohol can play in sexual crimes so we work closely with the licensed trade and through schemes like Best Bar None to encourage responsible drinking and people making arrangements to get home safely.
“Another part of the rise is historical cases. Changes in society mean that people are more willing to contact police about offences which took place in the past. It’s encouraging that there is a greater confidence in the police.”
Across the Capital, a total of 36,202 crimes were recorded for the year against 38,218 for 2010-11. The percentage of crimes solved by police remained unchanged at 43 per cent.
Chief Supt Imery added: “I’m really pleased to see a five per cent drop in crime across the city. We’re focused very much on crime reduction and prevention although we still devote great efforts to solving crimes and other traditional police work. But we want to stop people being victims of crime in the first place. That is why we are most interested in seeing reductions in crime rather than higher arrest levels or response times.
“Housebreakings can have a huge impact on victims. That is why we made reducing the number of break-ins to homes one of our top priorities. We’ve had a combination of enforcement activities with a real focus on repeat offenders. We’ve worked to identify and pursue them, but also with our partners, look at issues such as addiction or homelessness that can lead to a cycle of offending.”
Housebreakings city-wide fell by nine per cent, with Southside/Newington, with its large number of common stair flats, posting the highest number at 157. Overall crime in that area also rose by four per cent.
Labour councillor Ian Perry, who represents the Southside/Newington ward, said: “It’s very disappointing that the area is bucking the downward trend seen across Edinburgh. It’s probably difficult to identify any one particular factor behind the rise but I would encourage residents to report any suspicious activity to police.
“I’m also really disappointed by the rise in housebreakings, which comes after years where the figures have been fairly steady.”
The city centre, with its concentration of pubs and nightclubs, had the greatest number of serious assaults, with 106, a six per cent rise on last year.
But Lib Dem councillor Charles Dundas, who represents the City Centre ward, said he was “delighted” with the overall eight per cent fall in crime in the area. He said: “After last year’s record numbers, we didn’t think that crime in the city centre would fall again. We were waiting for the inevitable rise this year so it’s tribute to Lothian and Borders Police that we’ve seen another decrease.
“There has been no real change in the profile of the city centre so the types of crimes we see haven’t changed. But Edinburgh still has one of the safest city centres there is.”
Across the city, the murder rate fell by 50 per cent on last year’s record number of 14, with seven murder victims over the 12 months.
Crimes involving thefts dropped by five per cent, with car thefts down 14 per cent and bike thefts falling five per cent.
Chief Supt Imery added that raising awareness through campaigns such as No Knives Better Lives, as well as education in schools, had combined with the “deterrent effects” of stop and searches in weapons hotspots to produce a 19 per cent drop in possession of offensive weapon cases.
In East Lothian, crime fell by 15 per cent and an eight per drop was seen in Midlothian, but West Lothian posted a slight increase of one per cent.
Crime in Edinburgh April 2011-March 2012
Serious assault -9%
Car theft -14%
Possession of offensive weapon -19%
Overall crime -5%
Worst areas for sexual assault
1. City centre 56
2. Sighthill/Gorgie 36
3. Leith 25
4. Leith Walk 23
5. Forth 21
Worst areas for sexual exposure
1. City centre 22
2. Forth 15
3. Craigentinny/Duddingston 14
4. Liberton/Gilmerton 13
5. Southside/Newington 11
Worst areas for offensive weapon
1. Sighthill/Gorgie 84
2. City centre 74
3. Forth 52
4. Leith 49
5. Leith Walk 44
Worst areas for housebreakings
1. Southside/Newington 157
2. Forth 121
3. Leith Walk 99
4. Meadows/Morningside 95
5. Craigentinny/Duddingston 92
Worst areas for serious assault
1. City centre 106
2. Sighthill/Gorgie 49
3. Leith 27
4= Southside/Newington 18
4= Leith Walk 18
4= Oxgangs 18